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Thoughts after the Brown win/ Coakley loss…

January 20, 2010

Well, it looks as if Massachusetts is going to send a Republican to the Senate. Congratulations are in order to Team Brown, who ran a pretty decent, clean campaign and crushed Martha Coakley — who led at one point by 31 points — by 5 points.

I don’t want to add to the circular firing squad on the left, but I had a few thoughts about what lessons to take from this campaign:

People like change.  I remember in 2008 that, beyond the Presidential and the Senate seat, all the candidates on the ballot in Massachusetts were Democrats.  As a person who usually votes down the party line, I thought, “gosh, I wish I had some choice.”  Now the Commonwealth, for better or for worse, has it.  It remains unclear whether “the people” will regret this decision.

However, too much change – or the perception of too much change – unnerves many people. The national health care debate has been an unbelievably complicated one – I challenge any pundit on television from anywhere on the political spectrum to explain it beyond a few catchy talking points.  It’s a throwaway sentiment to say that people are nervous about major restructuring of the federal system (with the as-yet ill-defined possibility of an increase in taxes), but this systemic change — as well as the bugaboos and mistruths advanced by various interested parties — gives one pause.  So maybe the universal health care may be too much ‘change’ for some folks to handle.

Poltical Complacency Kills. I’ve never heard of any other candidate going on a week-long vacation a month before the general election, but Coakley did.  So did the blase attitude of the campaign throughout the primary and during December and January.  Even John Kerry campaigned during the ’08 election, despite an unknown challenger nipping at his heels.

So do Unforced Errors and the Scent of Desperation. Misspelling “Massachusetts” in your advertising.  Claiming Curt Schilling likes the Yankees.  Acting defensive when you’re the frontrunner.  Blowing cash for no reason.  C’mon.  Also, negative ads are usually a sign of desperation. I also received six emails from the Coakley campaign to remember to vote…yet another sign of desperation as the walls were caving in.

As Coakley began to collapse, her campaign, Democratic Party committees, outside organized labor, and environmental and abortion rights groups bankrolled a desperate multimillion-dollar carpet bombing ad campaign in an effort to halt Brown’s surge. It backfired. The ads, some of which distorted Brown’s record, created a blowback that scorched the Democrat. Coakley entered the campaign as a well-liked politician and ended with high negative poll ratings.

Money isn’t everything, but it helps. According to the Globe,

Money poured in from around the country. [Brown’s] campaign had an initial budget of $1.2 million but eventually spent $13 million, about $12 million of which came in via the Internet, a campaign official said last night.

Weak Candidates are weak…Or also you can say that maybe another candidate could have done a better job…and for all the 14,000 folks in Somerville that turned out for the primary, you can get the T-Shirt here.

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